When Nickalodeon’s hit series Avatar the Last Airbender had its series finale in July of 2008, many fans of the series were honored with a finale that gave the series the perfect farewell, but we were left with an empty space. Diehard fans of the series who had followed it religiously throughout its three-year run on Nickelodeon were left dreaming of the infinite possibilities of the series and where it could go. The main question was who would the next Avatar be? Just four years later at San Diego Comic Con, that question was answered when series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino announced what would later be called “The Legend of Korra”. The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events of the original series in the fictional Republic City. The show followed the next incarnation in the Avatar cycle a young woman named Korra from the water tribe. Over the course of the series we would see Korra deal with naivety, PTSD, physical disability, fascism, spirituality, responsibility, feelings of inadequacy, and her sexuality. One of the greatest things about this show is that it features women of color of all ages just being tremendous badasses and taking part in the action rather than sitting back. The Legend of Korra as a series is perfect and prime material for a live action adaptation….we will just completely ignore, disregard, and put that M. Night Shayamalan disaster out of our minds.
Kawennahere Devery Jacobs as Korra
As a character, Korra might quite possibly be the most developed and well-rounded character of the entire series. Shes faced impossible odds that to be quite honest I don’t think any Avatar before her has had to deal with, and considering what we know about past Avatars, that saying something. Korra is extremely impatient, headstrong; extremely fierce, and loyal. However that’s just on the surface, because Korra is also extremely uncertain about her duties and position as the Avatar and at times struggles with being unconfident in the role. Unlike most Avatars, Korra’s element of choice and the easiest for her to learn was the element of fire which is the complete opposite of her natural affinity. Kawennahere Devery Jacobs would make the perfect Korra; she’s got the spunk, the attitude, the personality, and not to mention she is a pretty great actress. With a character like Korra, you need an actress who can seamlessly weave between moments of great strength and confience, as well as moments of vulnerability and uncertainty and I think Kawennahere has the right spark. Kawennahere is a strong advocate for Native roles and against whitewashing, and I firmly believe she is the Korra that we deserve.
Kiki Sukezane as Asami Sato
Asami is one of the original members of Team Korra. Asami and Korra had and an extremely tumultuous and complex relationship that would take them from being rivals to friends and ultimately lovers. Asami is the daughter of Republic City industrialist Hiroshi Sato owner of the top tech company Future Industries. Asami is extremely caring, patient, compassionate, and able to defend herself. Shes incredibly intelligent and loyal to her friends and maintains an extremely high moral compass which generally helps her make the right decision. The love she has for her friends and family is so genuine and so pure that even when they make horrible decisions or do horrible things, she still manages to forgive them. Kiki Sukezane would make the perfect Asami Sato because as an actress she is pretty good at portraying confidence and strength. Asami requires the type of actress who can genuinely convince you that she doesn’t need to be defended or taken care of because she can do it herself. Kiki would be good at conveying both Asami’s intelligence, her compassion, and her ability to fight. Sukezane is from Kyoto, Japan, and her family is known for its Samurai ancestry.
Ludi Lin as Mako
Mako is one of the first characters that Korra encounters when she enters Republic City. She meets him and his brother Bolin in a probending stadium. Korra met Mako and Bolin right before the brothers were to go on stage for probending match. He is an extremely talented firebender. Mako and Korra would later on come to develop feelings for each other and begin a romantic relationship. Mako is the silent brooding type who sits in the corner with his arms folded and a smoldering side glance. He generally has to be in control and is constantly alert of his surroundings which could possibly be attributed to the hard life he and his brother lived on the street. Mako is extremely dedicated and dutiful to his job as a Republic City police officer. I chose Ludi Lin because he definitely is an expert at the smoldering brooding stare that Mako is notorious for. Ludi has a certain charm and charisma that just works for Mako because while he does have a bit of a hard exterior, you need to like Mako, and Ludi would be perfect at portraying that while making him likeable.
Remy Hii as Bolin
Bolin is honestly one of the purest and most likeable characters on the show. He always has the best of intentions and tries extremely hard to always see the good in everyone. He is pretty funny and has a pretty great sense of humor and is generally laid back and quite calm. He’s extremely loyal to those that he loves especially his brother. There is a certain naivety and innocence to Bolin that is quite refreshing during some of the series more heavy moments. Bolin is an Earthbender and one third of the Fire Ferrets probending team. One of the best aspects of the character is when he becomes a “Mover Star” in the fictional “Adventures of Nuktuc” film series. I chose Remy Hii because he is the same kind of adorable and fun as Bolin. Remy has a smile that brightens any scene that he is in and for someone like Bolin that’s crucial.
Unknown Actor and Amber Midthunder as Desna and Eska
We first meet Desna and Eska in Book 2 of the series when Korra travels to the Northern Water Tribe and meets her uncle Unalaq. We find out that Desna and Eska are Korra’s twin cousin’s. The twins might be two of the most underutilized characters in the entire series. Personality wise, the twins are extremely similar in that they are pretty monotone and show little to no interest in most people, places, things, and situations. We rarely see the twins express any emotion outside of boredom unless it has to do with Bolin in which case Eska can grow quite possessive and angry. Both twins are really sarcastic and show little signs of humor but when they do laugh or find something funny their reactions are generally awkward and uncomfortable for anyone around. Aubrey Plaza voiced Eska originally and so it was important to me to find a Native actress that could also do Plaza’s signature monotone sense of humor, and Amber Midthunder fit the bill perfectly. Midthunder is a really fun actress than many might recognize as Kerry Laudermilk from Fox’s hit series Legion. Midthunder has the personality to fit Eska perfectly and it would be hilarious seeing her chase after Remy Hii.
Donnie Yen as Tenzin
The youngest son of Avatar Aang and Katara, Tenzin is currently the only living airbending master. Tenzin, his wife, and their children live on Airbender Island along with a group of White Lotus sentries. Tenzin is basically Korra’s guardian while she is in Republic City, and while the two initially bump heads a lot, they are extremely close and develop a strong father/daughter relationship. Tenzin just like his father is extremely spiritual and abides heavily in the tenants of the Airbending nation. For so long he and his children were the only airbenders in the entire world and so it was extremely important to him to uphold and carry on Airbending culture for future generations of air nomads and accolytes. Tenzin is extremely uptight and over protective of not just Korra, but also of the entire team. I chose Donnie Yen because he is perfect to portray and highly skilled and disciplined character like Tenzin. Donnie’s role as Master Ip in the critically acclaimed IP Man series shows that not only is he is fantastic actor, but he is also an amazing martial artist capable of perfectly portraying Tenzin’s skill, discipline, and spirituality.
Michelle Yeoh as Lin Beifong
Lin Beifong is the oldest daughter of Toph Beifong and the Police Chief of the Republic City Police department. Lin is easily one of the series best fighters and an extremely skilled metal bender. She is insanely tough, rough around the edges, and blunt in her interactions with many of the series characters especially those close to her. Lin means well, but quite often she pushes too hard or comes off as too rough, and in some cases pushes others away due to it. She has a complex and often times combative relationship with both her mother and sister, and while they all love and protect each other fiercely, their interactions usually end in a fight. Lin is extremely protective of those that she cares for and is oftentimes willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good as can be seen during the first season when she allows herself to be captured by the Equalists so that Korra could get away. It was pretty much a no brainer to cast Michelle Yeoh as Lin because she is fantastic at portraying complex stoic characters. Michelle Yeoh is an icon and a helluva martial artist who not only brings skill and dedication to the craft and every role but also a layer of complexity.
Joan Chen as Suyin Beifong
Suyin is the youngest daughter of Toph Beifong, the half-sister of Lin Beifong, and the leader/founder of the metal bending city Zaofu. When she was younger, she was the more rebellious of the Beifong sisters which oftentimes put her and Lin in each others way. Suyin is pretty calm and level-headed, making her the complete opposite of her half sister Lin. She is a pretty carefree and artsy spirit with a big heart. Suyin is extremely loyal and compassionate as well as open to new possibilities as well as opinions. Though her relationship with her mother and sister is complicated and complex, for Suyin, family is extremely important and she would do anything for her mother and sister as well as her own children and husband. For a metal bender, she is extremely fast and light on her feet, often times bending as if she were an airbender or waterbender. As a mother, Suyin is the type of parent we all want because she does a pretty good job at encouraging and nurturing all of her children and their diverse hobbies and personalities. However, she recognizes that much of her rebellious attitude and troubles stemmed from just how carefree and hands-off her mother was as a parent. This caused Lin to take a much more hands on and controlling route with her own children, but she would later realize that she had potentially been too controlling. I chose Joan Chen because ever since I saw her on Marco Polo I’ve wanted to get her into something extremely fun. Every time I would turn on an episode of Marco Polo and her character would appear on-screen I would just think about how great she would be playing opposite Michelle Yeoh as the Beifong sisters. Joan has an insanely nuturing and warm smile and a beautiful personality that would make her perfect for Suyin.
Tsai Chin as Toph Beifong
Toph Beifong is one of the Avatar series greatest benders, having basically invented metalbending. I love that as a character, Toph provides visibility and representation for blind women of color. I love that the show doesn’t play Toph being blind as a hinderance that makes her weak, but it instead uses it as a strength that she often times uses to amplify her Earth bending. Toph has always been stubborn, headstrong, and extremely laid back in her approach to life. Shes always been carefree and had an intense desire and need for adventure and new possibilities. Toph throughout the entire course of her life has always remained sarcastic, witty, blunt, and unafraid of a confrontation. She doesn’t hold back her punches and generally says what she likes (much to the dismay of others), but don’t let that fool you….shes got a heart of gold. Just like many of the other characters, when it comes to her friends and family she is insanely loyal and willing to go the distance to help them even with the most minute of things. When you’ve got Toph Beifong on your side its like having a one woman army. Toph spent her life proving to not just her parents but to everyone around her that she could be independent and that she wasn’t just some fragile little girl incapable of taking care of herself. Extremely resourceful Toph will find a way out of any bind and eventually overcome it. I chose Tsai Chin for Toph because she is absolutely perfect and portraying a witty and fed up older woman. Tsai would be perfect to portray and aged and older Toph who just wants to chill and relax in the woods.
Togo Igawa as Firelord Zuko
Just like Korra Zuko is a character that has seen large amounts of growth over the course of being in the series. When he was introduced in Avatar the Last Airbender he was a villain chasing down the Avatar seeking to destroy him and the threat that he posed to the Fire Nation, but over time he would grow into a young man just seeking redemption, his fathers love, and forgiveness. However Zuko would come to realize with the help of his Uncle Iroh that he didn’t need his fathers love or forgiveness because he hadn’t done anything wrong and so he transformed from a villain and enemy of the Avatar into a life long friend and companion. Over the course of the original series we got to know Zuko and his life and every interaction that transformed him into the scared angry little boy that we all knew and saw. Eventually Zuko gets his redemption and its indeed a beautiful moment. When Zuko appears in Legend of Korra it was an emotional moment to see one of the original characters from the series in his old age. This Zuko was much more mature, but he seemed free and unweighted by the burdens of his past. I chose Togo Igawa to portray old Zuko because not only does he look exactly like him but he also is amazing a portraying mature yet funny and warm characters. Togo is a fantastic actor that brings with him a long career and the ability to weave in complexity and warmth into a character. Togo can be stern and commanding when necessary, but still maintain a light sense of humor.
Tantoo Cardinal as Katara
Katara is another character from the original series that was extremely skilled at bending from a young age. Before the age of 20, she had already become a master and faced down a bloodbender and many other mystical forces. Katara is the mother of Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya, but of her children, Tenzin is the most like her. In her youth, Katara was very uptight and by the rules. Throughout her entire life though she was extremely compassionate, caring, and loyal to not just her friends and family but to just about anyone she encountered. Katara has a special place in her heart for children which could potentially stem from the fact that she was so young when she lost her mother. Though she was the more mature member of Team Avatar Katara always maintained a sense of humor and just like her son Tenzin she still knew how to have fun. In her older age when we meet Katara it’s another emotional moment because we as the audience have seen her as a baby and a young woman and no we get to witness her as a mother and waterbending elder. She is still the same caring, compassionate, and wise woman that she has always been. I chose Tantoo Cardinal because she is an extremely warm and lovely Native actress who would totally do Katara justice. Tantoo is the type of actress that can be fierce and extremely soft all at the same time to give a well-rounded and likeable character.
Colin Chau as Avatar Aang
One of the most rewarding and emotional moments of the Legend of Korra series is when an adult Aang appears in spirit form to comfort and help Korra in the Book 1 finale. He seemed so warm and like he hadn’t lost that innocence and hopeful outlook that he had when he was a child in the first series, and it was such a beautiful moment between two Avatars. In the original series, Aang is extremely innocent and just like Korra unsure about his ability to fulfill and do the best he can in his duties as the Avatar. Aang is such a compassionate and truly pure character in that he cares for every living thing even the villains of the series. I mean come on the kid refuses to even kill Firelord Ozai when everyone even former Avatars tell him that he has to. He is one of those characters that I could spend all day talking about and dissecting because he is such an interesting character to me. I chose Colin Chau because for a while now almost anything I’ve seen him in he has played an extremely loyal and caring character. Colin also usually plays insanely disciplined characters that are fantastic martial artists which I think fits an older Aang as he wishes to maintain Airbending culture.
Rinko Kikuchi as Kuvira
We meet Kuvira at the end of Book 3 as a member of Zaofu’s military forces, but little did we know the trouble that she would cause in Book 4 when she became the season villain. In Book 4 we find out that Kuvira has left Zaofu in an attempt to reunite the Earth Kingdom after the events of Book 3 and what Zaheer and his Red Lotus team does to the country. Kuvira does this through strong arming and threatening world leaders and restabalizing the great city of Ba Sing Se. Kuvira is ruthless, cunning, calculating, and extremely intelligent. She is insanely cold and manipulative when it comes to getting what she wants and achieving her goals. She is an earthbender that is well beyond the point of a master, considering she holds her own against multiple benders at one point and proves to be more than a match for Korra. I chose Rinko Kikuchi to portray Kuvira because she is good at portraying the type of cold, calculating, remorseless villain that Kuvira is. However, there is another aspect of Kuvira that I think Rinko could tap into and convey extremely well. In Kuvira’s mind, what she is doing is what needs to be done and therefore she is doing what she feels is best for the good of the Earth kingdom.
Tom Wu as Zaheer
Zaheer might be one of my favorite characters from the Legend of Korra series. He is the leader of the Red Lotus an anarchist group that split off from the White Lotus group of the original series. Zaheer and his groups main goal is to return the world back to the people back to a state of chaos without rulers and borders dividing them and telling them what to do. Zaheer is deeply spiritual and a devoted student of the principles of the Air nation. He is an extremely dangerous and skilled airbender, despite not being born one and having only received his powers after Harmonic convergence in Book 2. While Zaheer might be willing to remove anyone who stands in his way he isn’t a brute and isn’t willing to needlessly harm those who pose no threat or who don’t need to be. Zaheer is insanely clever, resourceful, cunning, and intelligent always appearing to be just one step ahead and able to adapt to just about any situation. His belief in the Red Lotus goal of chaos is unyielding and something that he stands by firmly. I chose Tom Wu to play Zaheer because of his character Hundred Eyes in the Netflix series Marco Polo. In the series, Tom plays a blind monk who believes in his faith and his goals whole heartedly. Hundred Eyes is willing to do whatever it takes to defend his religion, his beliefs, and himself, and in that character I saw an actor perfect for Zaheer.
Li Bingbing as P’li
In the original series there was a telekinetic firebender capable of what was called “combustion bending”. Team Avatar nicknamed the character “Sparky Sparky Boom Man” and he was characterized by what appeared to be an ornate tattoo of an eye on his forehead where his bending would come from. Not much is known about P’Li’s background other than she has the same exact tattoo on her forehead and she is capable of the same combustion bending that Sparky Sparky Boom Man was. P’Li is one of the four members of Zaheer’s Red Lotus team and she is one of the most deadly mainly serving as cover for the other three. P’Li is the love of Zaheer’s life so much so that she was considered his Earthly tether, the thing that bound him to this life and to the ground. Just like other members of the Red Lotus P’Li is extremely dangerous and ruthless when it comes to getting what she wants and removing obstacles from her path. She was extremely loyal and protective of her boyfriend Zaheer, often times dropping the objective of a mission to protect him if she thought he was in danger. I chose Li Bingbing because whenever I envision a live action P’Li it’s always her that I see. Li is fantastic at playing the role of a villain who is calculating and ruthless. P’Li has a certain regalness and beauty to her that I think Li is more than capable of weaving into her already badass demeanor.
Shu Qi as Ming Hua
Let me start this off by saying that Ming Hua is quite possibly one of the most badass women on this show. Ming Hua is a waterbender who at some point before the series lost both of her arms, but that definitely didn’t stop her as she proves to be just as dangerous and as much of a threat as the rest of her team. She is laid back, calm, cool, and collected in just about every situation even in battle and generally has a sarcastic witty sense of humor. Her waterbending style is alot more aggressive and forceful than we generally see from waterbenders. She usually prefers to beat down and barrage her opponents with her technique which makes her pretty hard to keep up with and fight especially with her speed. I chose Shu Qi because she is no stranger to playing badass women who are capable of handling themselves. Shu Qi has had a long career playing interesting and powerful women.
Robin Shou as Ghazan
The fourth and final member of Zaheer’s Red Lotus team is Ghazan. Ghazan possessed the rare ability to lavabend which was usually his prefered type of bending. In Battle, Ghazan was serious and merciless in his approach to taking on his opponents but in outside of that he was just as laid back as Ming Hua. He had a sense of humor that was both carefree and sarcastic. He was extremely confident and prideful in his skills as a lavabender and had no problem showing off or pushing himself to the limit. Ghazan loved his freedom more than anything and battling to the death was more appealing to him than being locked away again. I chose Robin Shou because of his insane martial arts skills and his ability to both play a laid back character as well as one who was serious when the time came. Many of you might remember Robin Shou as Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat films from the mid 90s.